Cruella to Alice in Wonderland: Top 7 live action remakes of childhood classics
If you’ve grown up in the 90s and are a millennial like me, every time someone says ‘live action remake’ your heart might constrict a little. Even though ‘live action remakes’ are not a new story and have been going on for years (perhaps even decades – Glenn Close appeared as Cruella de Vil in 1996!), something about tampering with a childhood memory doesn’t sit well with anyone, does it? But here’s my top list anyway!
Directed by Craig Gillespie and starring Emma Stone and Emma Thompson the film was written for the screen by Dana Fox and Tony McNamara. The story was written by Aline Brosh McKenna, Kelly Marcel and Steve Zissis. Based on Dodie Smith’s 1965 novel and the Disney Classic, this feature takes a deeper and more incisive look at the origin story of Cruella de Vil. The story is incredibly well-knit together and the psychological conflicts of the main protagonist (Stone) follow various stages (from her childhood to adulthood) that keep you hooked. Thompson and Stone share a wonderful chemistry. Armed with a punch 70s soundtrack and sparkled with a dark yet glitzy splash of the fashion world of the UK, Cruella is definitely the best live action remake in the history of live action remakes.
Starring Angelina Jolie in the titular role, the film was released in 2014 and gathered $758.5 million dollars at the global box office. The story took a peek at Maleficent’s back story and Jolie’s flawless portrayal made it a grand affair. There’s something about knowing the back story of a villain that makes the story all the more delicious. The movie met with a mixed response from the critics but Jolie’s memorable depiction as the powerful but misunderstood fairy is definitely one that will go down in history.
Starring Yifei Liu and directed by Niki Caro, Mulan (2020) had a lot of promise but was released right before the pandemic hit, hence incurring massive losses at the box office. While the film was well-received with critics (I’ll never forgive them for ignoring Mushu) it didn’t manage to do well when it came to commercial success. It also ran into some controversy related to lack of diversity and political commentary.
Directed by Guy Ritchie, the film had pretty big shoes to fill. Guy Ritchie’s direction style isn’t always the safest bet but Aladdin (2019) was definitely a hit. Starring Will Smith as the Genie and Mena Massoud as Aladdin and Naomi Scott as Jasmine, the film’s soundtrack lived up to the expectations: which is saying something because Aladdin’s memorable songs such as ‘You Ain’t Never Had a Friend Like Me’ and ‘I Can Show You the World’ were imprinted in everyone’s minds. The film amassed around $1b dollars at the box office.
Jungle Book (2016)
Directed by Jon Favreau and written by Justin Marks, Jungle Book (2016) was reimagined for the screen with Mowgli being played by the pitch perfect Neel Sethi. It garnered $966.6 million dollars at the box office and perhaps was one of the most critically acclaimed Disney remakes.
Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Directed by Bill Condon (of the Twilight fame) the film starred Emma Watson and Dan Stevens. How could you possibly retell a tale in the 2010s that was extremely problematic to begin with? Writer Stephen Chbosky (of the Perks of Being a Wallflower fame) and screenwriter Evan Spiliotopoulos took up the gargantuan task and delivered. They managed to give the film a modern twist while retaining the premise. The film garnered over $1.2 billion dollars at the box office.
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Directed by Tim Burton and written for the screen by Linda Woolverton, the feature starred Mia Waikowska, Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway and Helena Bonham Carter. The film grossed over $1.025 billion worldwide in 2010 and why should it have not. It had all the elements that Tim Burton’s whacky sense of cinema could have a ball with. Johnny Depp’s depiction of the Mad Hatter was especially delicious. The sequels weren’t that bad either, as they tried to add more modern twists to Alice’s story.
It was a tough list to put together, I think I’ve still missed out on so many. While there are flaws in each of them and nostalgia, by default, is an unbeatable emotion, these were decent enough features that continued to build on the perfection of childhood and have given us something new. With modern technology and grander scales for viewership (IMAX, 4D theatres galore), films are now more immersive than ever before. Childhood tales, if told well, can come alive in more ways than one. And given how massively cinematic technology is progressing, I won’t be surprised if animated classics will continue to be reinvented by studios for more nuanced and inclusive storytelling.